One of the incredible features of St Patrick’s Cathedral is the wealth of monuments, statues and plaques within it. Among the many famous and influential names that jump out from the stones is that of the author and satirist, Jonathan Swift. Swift was made Dean of St. Patrick’s in 1713, and quickly gained a reputation for his notably long sermons. He is buried in the western end of the nave, alongside his great love, Esther Johnson.
One of the more intriguing features is the so-called ‘Door of Reconciliation’, and according to a famous story, it is the origin of the phrase ‘to chance your arm’. Towards the end of the 15th century, rivalry between the powerful Butlers of Ormonde and the FitzGeralds of Kildare broke into a violent feud. A skirmish was fought on the outskirts of Dublin. The Butlers retreated and took refuge in the Chapter House of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The FitzGeralds followed them into the Cathedral and demanded that they come out and make peace. The Butlers, with justifiable caution at the time, were afraid that if they did so they would be massacred, and so they refused. As a gesture of good faith Gerald FitzGerald ordered that a hole be cut in the door. He then thrust his arm through the door and offered his hand in peace to those on the other side. By making himself so vulnerable, FitzGerald reassured the Butlers that FitzGerald truly wanted an end to the fighting so they opened the door. Unusually for Medieval Ireland it ended peacefully, with a cessation of hostilities.
Perhaps the most elaborate monument is the 17th century tomb of Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork and his wife. This exceptionally tall monument has life-size effigies of the first earl of Cork and his wife Katherine Fenton, as well as eleven of their children and Katherine’s mother, father and grandfather. Close by is the slightly more modest, but still rather extravagant, tomb of Archbishop Thomas Jones who died in 1619. Even in death it’s difficult to keep up with the Joneses!